“Not until 20 minutes before Thursday night’s Dallas Symphony Orchestra concert did Karina Canellakis learn that she’d be conducting it … It was Canellakis’ second late substitution for van Zweden in a Mozart-and-Shostakovich program. The last time, in October 2014, she took over halfway through a four-performance run including the formidable Shostakovich Eighth Symphony. This time she’s conducting all four performances of a program including the Shostakovich Leningrad Symphony and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor (K. 491).
Those of us who witnessed one of those 2014 performances, and some subsequent ones in the DSO’s ReMix series, weren’t surprised at the results this time at the Meyerson Symphony Center. Once again, in a fiercely challenging program, admittedly benefitting from van Zweden’s rehearsals, Canellakis took over with absolute authority … With gestures clear yet expressive, Canellakis realized every emotional import, managing every transition with assurance, building climaxes with inevitability. She knew what the music was about, where it was going and why…”
Scott Cantrell, The Dallas Morning News, 4th February 2016
“An orchestral program of Mozart’s darkest piano concerto and Shostakovich’s most complex symphony would challenge a conductor under any circumstances. Thursday night at Meyerson Symphony Center, the Dallas Symphony’s assistant conductor Karina Canellakis stepped in for music director Jaap van Zweden (who was called away on a family emergency), with less than 24 hours’ notice to take on this task, with impressive success.
That Canellakis was up to the assignment was evident from the first moment in her confident and precise delivery of the multi-layered lines in the somber orchestral introduction of Mozart’s Concerto No. 24 in C minor, which nicely set up the stark entry of piano soloist David Fray … With a much larger orchestra on stage after intermission (including percussion stationed in the midst of the violin section), Canellakis took on Shostakovich’s mammoth, 80-minute Symphony No. 7 … While Canellakis had demonstrated admirable command of both emotional and technical detail in the Mozart, she admirably expanded those same qualities into Shostakovich’s epic score, knowing exactly when and how to produce the bombast of battle, and, even more impressively, how to communicate the sorrow and anguish presented in the later movements. This listener entered the concert hall confident that van Zweden would pull this off with style, and left even more impressed with the young conductor who achieved the same accomplishment on short notice.”
Wayne Lee Gay, Dallas Observer, 5th February 2016
“With less than 20 minutes notice, the Dallas Symphony’s assistant conductor, Karina Canellakis, stepped in to conduct a difficult program … Bottom line? She did a terrific job … The assistant conductor lot in life is to sit and wait. They are usually young without the repertoire that more experienced conductors have at their fingertips. Also, conductors pick the season with three kinds of pieces: those they know cold (and don’t require much study time,) those they want to learn and those they already know but want to brush up on. This list, naturally, almost never coincides with the assistant’s list so they have to absorb a huge amount of music. So, the assistant sits through all of the rehearsals, making notes on how the conductor has conceived the major parameters, such as tempo and balance. That is not the same as pondering the architecture of the work and determining the tier of the dynamics. Putting their own stamp on it, as it were. With this in mind, it would be patently ridiculous, as well as insulting, to parse over the little details of her performance. What she deserves is unqualified praise. But make no mistake; her performance, under very difficult circumstances, was not some stroke of luck. It was the earned reward for a lot of hard work. As the saying goes, fate favors the prepared”
Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, Theater Jones Reviews, 6th February 2016